As a graduate student, I fell madly in love with Friedrich Nietzsche’s work. I would sit in cafes reading his writings and experience feelings so strong, so profound, and at times, so confounding, that I wrote a seminar paper about how I loved Nietzsche and the way his writing spoke to me. My argument was that he loved me back, and the love I experienced between us was a love of friendship.
My professor was sympathetic to the feels, but overall, it was too ambitious and too experimental of a project to be taken seriously as “philosophy.”
Still, I was so affected (literally), I set out to write a dissertation on Nietzsche’s thought and style of writing to demonstrate the connection between the health of our ideas (epistemology), the health of our being (ontology), the potential political implications of this relationship.
Six months and a couple chapters into writing it, my faculty advisor was still personally and philosophically sympathetic, but she advised me to start over with a new project. Focusing on Nietzsche and writing in the way I felt it needed to be written proved to still be too ambitious and too experimental (for my current committee members) to pull off as serious “philosophy.” Thus, after a change in the members of my committee and a redirection of the project, I ended up with Positive Philosophy, or, “My Original Dissertation Lite.”
I hardly mentioned Nietzsche at all, and I never attempted to write about his philosophy again.
Fast forward to the past couple of years when I’ve been deeply involved in a totally different kind of process and internal reflection from the years before. Rather than being immersed in academic philosophy, I’m thinking about my life in profoundly new ways. It’s still personal. It still involves lots of big feels. And it feels like some of the most important reflecting I’ve done to date. But for the most part, I’ve kept it very private.
For the past couple of years, in sum, I’ve been reflecting and learning about love.
Love between people.
How to love.
How to be loved.
How to root social and political and personal change in love.
The transformative power of love as a value and a practice for people, for institutions.
The fundamental difference of acting out of love rather than fear.
There are so many people who have talked about love in these terms before, and none of this is particularly related to Nietzsche. But more and more, he’s slowly been creeping back into my life. I’ll catch myself thinking about love and then say, “That’s like something Nietzsche wrote about!”
And I can’t help but start thinking again about what love might look like if we thought about it on Nietzsche’s terms. What does love feel like when it comes from us in a place of strength, levity, power, exuberance, and vitality? What does love look like when it’s rooted in practices of self-overcoming.
This is my newest consideration, and I haven’t figured it out yet. I can’t even tell you what “Nietzsche Love” is, but I’m excited to see if and how such a conception of love might emerge through this process of writing from a place of feminist friendship.